ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Harold Castro, best known for hitting singles, enjoyed the moment.
He had no doubt the baseball would soar over the right-field wall.
“I knew it,” Castro said.
So, he pimped his ninth home run in 252 career games.
For the uninitiated, pimping a home run doesn’t refer to an occupation, but rather it means to savor a long ball, taking one’s time to get to first base.
“That’s what we want right there,” third baseman Jeimer Candelario said. “We want to play the game, and we want to have fun.”
The Detroit Tigers‘ utility player, serving as the first baseman in Monday’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, slowly walked out of the batter’s box, watched the ball fly and clutched the barrel of his bat.
After about 10 steps, Castro flipped his bat into the air.
It spun above his head.
“I don’t hit those too often,” he said, “so I gotta do something.”
The situation was just as big as the celebration. The Tigers had two outs in the top of the ninth inning against Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge, and Castro’s solo homer snapped the tie for a 3-2 win at Tropicana Field. The ball traveled 400 feet with a 103.8 mph exit velocity.
His homer also upped the Tigers’ winning streak to four games and improved the team’s record to 13-23 this season.
“That feels amazing,” Castro said. “We’re working hard every day. We came here to work hard and keep doing the little things. We know we’re going to have tough times, but we just have to keep fighting and keep pushing.”
Castro earned his way into Monday’s lineup, thanks to a 3-for-4 performance with one triple and two RBIs in Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. He has four multi-hit games this season.
He started at first base over rookie Spencer Torkelson, though Torkelson — slumping with a .153 batting average in 32 games — is expected to be in Tuesday’s lineup against Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan.
“You don’t see that out of Harold a lot,” manager A.J. Hinch said of Castro’s clutch home run. “But you see the ball off the barrel quite a bit. … He’s been putting up pretty good at-bats. I think Harold’s got power.”
In 2022, Castro is hitting .306 with five extra-base hits, two walks and 12 strikeouts across 21 games. He has an 18.5% strikeout rate and a 3.1% walk rate, compared to a 21.2% strikeout rate and a 4.1% walk rate in 2021.
Castro is averaging 3.89 pitches per plate appearance this season.
Last year, he averaged 3.46.
“I’m just trying to be a little more patient at the plate,” Castro said. “That’s helped me a lot. I’m trying to see more pitches, so I’m working on that.”